Until very recently, the iconic James Bond game GoldenEye 007 (more commonly referred to as simply GoldenEye or GoldenEye 64) from the Nintendo 64 was relegated to the shadowy realms or retro machinery and emulation, though the recent remaster for modern systems finally solved this issue. Yet, despite its limited availability throughout the years, it remained an FPS icon for ages, inspiring many titles since – some more than others. Sitting in the “more” category comes The Spy Who Shot Me, a title effectively parodying the very game and genre itself. It’s been on PC for some time, and now that it’s finally on Xbox it’s our time to review it!
Looks like the ratio is 90-2-10
That iconic 90’s shooter from Rare remained memorable for many reasons. The charming blocky 3D graphics of the era, the incredible music, the cool tech, the open-ended gameplay of the missions, all the way down to the chaotic yet addictive local multiplayer. The Spy Who Shot Me isn’t trying to be a 1:1 recreation of those features – rather, something that evokes similar feelings and nostalgia while also being its own thing. Indeed, the game itself isn’t that similar to playing the original GoldenEye 007, but the game design and gameplay are closer to the relative straight-forward “corridor shooting” of games like Wolfenstein 3D. While the levels feature a couple optional paths, 3D platforming and interactive elements, most situations boil down to going forward on relatively simple levels, with enemies waiting or spawning in for us to gun down. Stealthy approaches are possible, with melee attacks, knives or even silencers, but that hardly ever matters. This game wants to evoke the nostalgia of the era, while also making an intentional mockery of it.
The protagonist, Agent 7 (not to be confused with 007 obviously), is a character who looks suspiciously close to Sean Connery’s rendition of James Bond. And indeed, while the game is directly inspired by the GoldenEye 007 videogame, which in turns was based on the action-packed James Bond movies starring Pierce Brosnan instead, the general style and tone of the narration and characters much more closely resembles the James Bond movies of old. Of course, the James Bond series started as books, but clearly the main inspiration here is the cinematic form of his adventures. Our protagonist is cocky, a womanizer, has no fear or doubts ever, taking needless risks and talking out his plans aloud, knowing fully well that he’s the best and nobody will beat him to the punch anyway. Every woman he encounters can not wait to be conquered by his irresistible charm, and every enemy ultimately has to surrender to his immense skill and masculinity. It’s a slightly on the nose, but certainly an effective parody of these espionage movies of old, with wildly outdated stereotypes and ideals of male and female qualities alike. Similarly, both his allies and enemies are intentionally reminiscent of the exaggerated villains of the James Bond movies of the era.
As said, however, the game only superficially resembles GoldenEye, with the themes, visuals and sounds clearly mimicking that iconic combo. In actuality, it’s a much more linear, almost corridor-based shooter. Players start each level with only melee options and a pistol, with either a silencer or without, but in practice it hardly is ever needed, with bullets in abundance and stealth often simply not even being viable. As the stages go on, players then find grenades, shotguns, rifles and more, each with a secondary weapon mode as well, with the enemy counts also going upwards together with our power creep. It’s all in all a very old school FPS experience, but more of the Wolfenstein 3D or Rise of the Triad school: players will have to find giant floating number 7s to open doors and activate mechanisms in other parts of the map, with relatively linear paths otherwise. The few alternative routes usually only end up with a handful of bullets, a few of the optional objectives/secrets (such as hostages to save or collectibles to get), of which completion helps achieving the maximum 3 star rating for each mission. These usually end with a situation where our hero has to escape from a bomb, run away with a key item or something of the sort, forcing their hand to run towards the finish with the clock ticking and, usually, large waves of enemies making this a harder task.
For better or worse, the game’s action is very simplistic. Most weapons are very effective and pack plenty of bullets, allowing players to go for a heavy-handed approach. AI enemies aren’t particularly smart, and rarely do anything aside from running and gunning towards the player, making them rather easy to abuse. On the flipside, the game does seem to enjoy spawning enemies outside of the directions players are expected to look at, and with how little health our agent packs it can be a disappointing death to being attacked in the back, with no real audiovisual cues as to the fact this is about to happen. I guess the visual aids of seeing footsteps in Fortnite has spoilt me a good bunch, and such deaths do actually make some level of sense in a game that features stealth and espionage amid its design choices. What’s a lot more annoying is that levels, that can take anywhere from a couple minutes to a good half an hour, tend to be divided into two segments, separated by a checkpoint. Dying in such way can cause some annoyance, as there’s potentially all kinds of progress lost in the middle, including the side objectives that have to be done from the start.
Generally, the game doesn’t boast a particularly high level of polish. While everything looks and feels functional at first, the facade wears off relatively quick when you realize that, for example, the pause menu does not actually pause the game for whatever reason. Collisions, button inputs and such can also be a bit unprecise, which is noticeable in the game’s platform segments, with even the player respawning at the start of a level or hub can fairly often lead to them falling forever under the map, forcing yet another reload of the game. At least, none of these issues seem terminal, and seem like they could be fixed in a fairly short time via patches. I sure hope they also fix some boss encounters that seem to be able to shoot through obstacles!
The game’s story can be beaten in only a handful of hours, though exploring each level far and wide to complete all secondary options can take longer, with a handy replay mission option that allows players to go back to whichever level they want – even the non-traditional ones. Indeed, among the various “GoldenEye at home” style missions, various diversions pop up, such as a shooting gallery, fully interactive snooker tables or a golf course and a few levels where players need to carry out objectives on a speedboat, in what is a surprisingly enjoyable side activity made even better by the game’s infectious humor. Indeed, many of the game’s shortcomings can be somewhat forgiven with how hilarious some of the scenarios and dialogues are, giving me a smile before I could get annoyed with a slightly odd death.
I love cheap thrills
And ultimately, that’s what counts. The Spy Who Shot Me expertly manages to both be a homage and a parody to the legendary GoldenEye 007 on Nintendo 64, offering a little humorous gem that plays like old school shooters (though not all that much like its source material), but not without a handful of shortcomings and compromises that doesn’t quite allow it to enter the hall of fame of boomer shooters. Still, the game’s cool style, cheap price (about 8 bucks) and surprisingly decent gameplay variety makes this an enjoyable romp to blast through on a rainy evening or two, starting this 2024 on Xbox with a fun and funny experience.
The Spy Who Shot Me
Xbox Series X
- Charming visuals
- Great humor
- Solid shooting all around
- Good variety
- Various bugs and polish woes
- Doesnìt have the open-ended structure of GoldenEye 007
- Checkpoints kinda blow in some levels
- No multiplayer